‘Catch and release’ plan to tackle illegal fishing
By blacksteff0 | Monday, December 21, 2009, 22:58
ALL fishing in the Lower Stour and Christchurch Harbour is to change to ‘catch and release’ from January 1 as part of a crackdown on illegal angling.
A fall in the stocks of sea trout, bass and mullet over the last decade has been blamed on an increase in illegal fishing by rod and line and netting.
Anglers visiting the area are estimated to contribute more than £5 million to the Christchurch economy with bed and breakfast, food and drink and angling related purchases also benefiting. However, there are fears that that this figure will be hit – and fish stocks continue to decline – unless urgent action is taken to tackle illegal fishing.
Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water (BWHW) and Ringwood and District Angling Association are to take over joint management of the Lower Stour and Harbour from January 1. A number of changes are to take effect from that date including changing all fishing to a ‘sports fishery’, i.e catch and release.
Mike Rhodes, BWHW’s Property and Recreational Services Manager, said: “This is the only practical way forward and means species are returned to the water for the benefit of both the angler and the economy of Christchurch. “Fishing ‘catch and release’ is practised on many major sport fisheries across the world. It is something some fisheries need if we want to secure angling and fish stocks for future generations. ”The option of letting anglers take the odd fish ‘for the pot’ was considered but this would have made it difficult to bailiff.” The effects of the scheme will be reviewed each year.”
The decision to designate the Lower Stour and Harbour as a ‘sports fishery’ has been welcomed by the National Mullet Club (NMC) and Ringwood and District Angling Association (RDAA).
Steve Smith, NMC Chairman, said its catch records indicated a steady decline in grey mullet. He added: “The Christchurch Harbour mullet fishery is of national importance for recreational anglers. Having urged its protection over a number of years, we are pleased to see it safeguarded in this way.”
Peter Hutchinson, RDAA Chairman, said the association looked forward to returning the Lower Stour and Harbour to “its once famous position in the angling world.”
“The Lower Stour requires extremely efficient bailiffing to reduce the amount of non-permit holders poaching the water. Improved general upkeep and maintenance of this water is also desperately required and RDAA already has plans in place to deal with these problems from January 1.” He also added that “Christchurch Harbour also suffers and RDAA has committed to assist BWHW to reduce poaching and illegal fishing, improving and protecting fry nursery areas and general fish stocks. By doing so, we will be returning this harbour to one of the premier sports fisheries in the country, both for coarse and sea species.”
Other changes from January 1, 2010, include the introduction of boat fishing licences which are only available from BWHW. Fishermen who wish to fish from a boat must now purchase a boat fishing licence at a cost of £60 per annum. Application forms are available from BWHW. New arrangements for day tickets for casual fishermen are now available from Davis Tackle shop on Bargates.
BWHW is also introducing free day tickets for children under 12 years of age in order to encourage youngsters to try the sport.